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Friday 8th August 2014

The Labour Party this week announced three key election policies, among them, a pledge to have all rivers and lakes clean enough to swim in, fish, and gather food from within a generation.

The party would set fresh water quality standards to be met by specific deadlines, and charge farmers for large water takes for immigration.

LISTEN: Radio New Zealand National’s Craig McCulloch explains the Labour Party policy:

Federated Farmers says the policy is stupid, unrealistic and unfair. Spokesperson Ian Mackenzie says the concept that farmers are an untapped resource of tax is extraordinary.

Mr Mackenzie said it is simply impossible to have all freshwater at a safe, swimmable level within a generation.

Alexander Robertson asked people in Wellington whether they think clean rivers are important.

As Di White reported this week, there’s a tension between the economic benefits of the agriculture industry and the need to protect the environment. A 2012 report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment said the Government is not doing enough to protect New Zealand's rivers.

Last month, the Green Party announced it would set up a protected rivers network to permanently safeguard New Zealand's rivers and will limit the amount of water being taken from them, the party has announced. The party’s co-leader Russel Norman said nearly two thirds of New Zealand’s  monitored river sites were too polluted for swimming.

But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce called that a cartoonish approach.

Mr Joyce says everyone agrees river quality should improve, but they don’t agree on how it should be done. “For example a blanket ban on all bans on all rivers is…just like saying ‘don't get out of bed in the morning’.”

Mr Joyce said there has to be balance, and change can’t be made without consideration of the impact on industry.

This content is brought to you with funding assistance from New Zealand On Air.

Cover Image: PhotoNZ

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